What Makes The Dark Riku Data Battle So Awesome; Kingdom Hearts III Limit Cut Deep Dive #7

The Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind DLC contains my favorite content in all of gaming thanks to its stellar and cathartic added story content, phenomenal new music, and unrivaled boss design. However, even after almost 2 years since this DLC’s release, I still find its reception relatively underrated. The numerous qualitative boss battles, in particular, warrant the perceived hefty price tag in my book.

But, what is it about these fights that I love so much? Well, I intend to discuss that point once again today, and 6 other times, as I attempt to rattle on why I love each of the 13 data fights in Kingdom Hearts III’s Limit Cut episode.

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If you missed them, check out my appreciative pieces on the following data fights:

The seventh data fight I will discuss is Dark Riku, the most temporal anomaly of any True Organization member, as the main cast deliberates his very manner of existence several times. To summate it all as simple as possible, Dark Riku is the corrupted form of Riku Replica from Chain of Memories, using a replica body as a vessel. Fittingly, his replica body is used as the base for granting Namine a body at the end of Kingdom Hearts III. Interestingly enough, Dark Riku was actually first revealed in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance in the Monstro world from Riku’s perspective. He did not play much of a role at all, really, merely being a visual shock and not much else.

Despite how contrived Dark Riku is as a character, I can’t deny that that general trait is why I find him so appealing and characteristic of Kingdom Hearts as a whole. Regardless of how needlessly extraneous his involvement as a Xehanort vessel may seem, the choice makes complete sense given how this iteration of Riku Replica was off the deep end. So much of Kingdom Hearts III was expected due to its long wait and absurd marketing, but facets like who Dark Riku truly was still shocked chiefly everyone.

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Tons of fans assumed he was either the Ansem possession form of Riku from the first game, or maybe even Data Riku from Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Of course, both of those choices would have been pretty out there by themselves. Still, the fact that this almost humorously specific version of an already warped character was chosen depicts how undeniably confident the series is in its own logic.

Dark Riku is probably the most tragic iteration of any version of Riku, though that’s certainly debatable. Unlike the other versions we’ve seen, Dark Riku never faces any genuine redemption and is never granted a chance to ruminate on the intricacies of his own existence. Instead, he is a blatant, non-sugar-coated pawn first and foremost and meets a sudden end. I can’t say I have a firm attachment to him as a character more than a concept due to how minute his overall origins lay, but he’s definitely the most thought-provoking True Organization member.

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As for his data variant, Dark Riku is by far one of the more unconventional fights. One constant throughout his battle is his spawning of cylindrical mines across the arena. This one attack completely alters the playing field compared to almost every other data battle, as it immediately alerts the player that a defensive strategy is preferred. As if that wasn’t enough, Dark Riku has a tendency to teleport in the midst of his combo, and even spawn a barrier around himself that negates damage and initiates knockback when struck. His usage of barrier can be seen as cheating in a sense since he can move while it is up, contrasting how playable characters who wield the spell can only stay in place while it is active.

Still, part of me views his ‘cheating’ as fitting given his snarky attitude and pension for the darkness, commonly associated with being a shortcut to power if relied upon too heavily. Moving on, yet another facet that amplifies the defensive nature of this battle is the frequency of unblockable, red attacks. Particular shockwaves and projectiles can only be evaded, demanding parsed scrutiny from players.

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Every single one of these aforementioned aspects culminates in Dark Riku’s Desperation Move (DM). It is perceptible as a reference to Riku-Ansem’s Dark Aura attack due to the same mannerisms being mimicked. He rhythmically fluctuates his positioning from the air to the ground, spawning a myriad of mines and blockable shockwaves alongside timed red beams that can only be dodged. While a terrifying DM at first, it’s actually one of the simplest to contend with as the pattern for blocking and dodging is relatively easy to parse. This is undoubtedly a case of looks being deceiving, which tragically ties into Dark Riku’s actual character being a substantial powerhouse fueled by frail, desperate lies.

Many of Dark Riku’s attacks are either ripped from prior games, particularly the original Kingdom Hearts, or heavily derived from them. Additionally, the track used for this battle, an arrangement of “Forze Del Male”, originates from the Riku-Ansem fight in the first game. It’s a continually eerie yet nostalgic song, emitting waves of sentimentality towards struggles from the first title while sounding considerably tenser and more forceful.

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Even though every data battle contains a treasure trove of references to prior encounters and games, Dark Riku’s battle is perhaps the most blatant and numerous in the realms of iconic sound design and imagery. Hell, even his victory quote is a reference. When winning, he states “Come on Sora! I thought you were stronger than that,” a line ripped straight from the first game.

Speaking of the battle quotes, most are not especially notable since they are traditionally spiteful and venomous, though their deliveries are stellar. David Gallagher did a fairly mediocre job voicing Riku throughout Kingdom Hearts III, but his efforts as Dark Riku were altogether more noticeable and qualitative. “One more!” “Think fast!” and “Who’s stronger?!” are probably the most frequently stated and identifiable with the data battle. He sounds so infectiously joyous, making each line never dull and a continuous threat.

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Dark Riku’s data battle was initially one of my more disliked fights, but it has become one of my favorites. Its employment of unusual strikes coated in simultaneous offensive and defensive properties demand a unique skillset from players that no other battle requires. The varied mix-ups and intimidation factor enhanced by the arena’s mine-littered presentation only serve to enhance the catharsis of victory.

The act of learning the openings is as satisfying as most of the other data battles, tending to require players to bypass his defenses in a multi-layered onslaught. For instance, he’s open after initiating the Counter Blast from his block, making players have to be especially cognizant of their timing and positioning relative to their immediate vicinity.

I noted how I used to dislike Dark Riku’s data battle, and well, one I used to truly despise is Data Saix, who I will be discussing next. He’s certainly the most contentious data combatant, yet the fair depth instilled in his moveset is undeniable.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.